A short boat ride is all it takes to reach the three islands of North Bay, Wiper and Ross from Rajiv Gandhi Water Complex on Port Blair. It will cost you about Rs 20 and in about 20 minutes, you will reach Ross Island.
Ross Islands is an island of monuments. Even though it covers only 75 acres of land, it was the administrative headquarters of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, before an earthquake struck in 1941. The British had built whatever they required for comfortable living; secretariat, markets, clubs, church, printing press, post office, water purifying plant, bakery, swimming pool, of course, built through the toil of freedom fighters doomed to be incarcerated in the islands as life-long punishment. The Japanese captured Ross Islands in 1942. In 1943, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose stayed here for a day and hoisted the national tri colour flag.
Now, the control of the island rests with the Indian Navy. The first thing you go through when you enter the island is their security check.
Tree or building?
As we walk along the concrete pathways, we realise that Ross is a land of coconut trees. All around you, you see the trees and at some places the fruit. But, do not get tempted to pluck them, for it is prohibited. Violators are slaped with a heavy fine.
What makes you do a double take is the fact that almost all the old buildings are swallowed by the giant peepal trees. The old post office, the printing press and other buildings look as if they are sprouting peepal trees. Time, they say can change geographies too.
We walk on the path which goes slightly uphill. Apart from coconut trees, the island is blessed with palm trees, peepal trees and other giant trees. At places we spot deers munching on the grass. There are certain places that we are prohibitted from crossing over. We move forward to the ancient British Navy Training Centres, barracks and power house, all turned now indistinguishable from trees.
Next to the lone sailor
The north western end of the island is completely different from the rest, as this region has been occupied by the Indian Navy. A model of a giant anchor has been built here with a legend: “When you return home, tell your loved ones that we have sacrificed our today for their tomorrow”.
Apparently, this is the highest point of the island. What follow from here are steps; not just to the blue sea but to an enthralling view of the clear blue sky, coconuts on the shore, and ruins of buildings half-submerged. As we moved forward in the stiff breez, a 200 meter bridge extending into the sea, welcomed us. Braving the high seas, we walked to the end of the bridge where there is a statue called ‘The Lone Sailor’; a magnificent sight that you cannot find anywhere in India. It is a bronze sculpture which is a tribute to the naval personnel of the United States, handed over to the nation in the 2010. It is no coincidence that the island received its name from a marine surveyor called Reginald Ross.
Ferar beach and the horror locations
Ferar is the only beach in Ross islands where the visitors are allowed. Tucked away at the eastern corner of the island, the beach offers tranquillity to the visitors as there are not many hazards here. There are pathways to the east, but if we go south, the picture is different. It gives you an impression of a dense forest, engulfed with huge trees. Truth to be told, we lost the direction and mistakenly got into the middle of the forest on our way back. The view was scary with no human presence, apart from having all the ingredients of a horror movie. A chill went through my bones, and I walked as fast as I could, of course, to be with the group.
In a little while we reached a point, where there were ruins of a church and a cemetery. After taking a short rest inside the vast and deserted church which was built in European style, we continued the trekking towards the jetty. All of us were thrilled that we have covered almost the entire island. Consequently, all were tired and decided to take a meal break. It has been four hours since we have started trekking. Most important monuments in the list have been covered, except museum and some other places which could be covered swiftly. As I sat in the Ross Restaurant for having a Biriyani, my bearer happened to be a Malayali. He told stories about the Tsunami, how people escaped the tragedy as it was a holiday and the part played by the Ross islands in hindering the giant waves.
It is time to return. It is time to say adieu to the surreal experience covered of creepers and roots of peepal trees, the remnants of buildings from the heydays of British Raj, the lovely beaches and the lonely sailor. As I wished good bye to the breath taking ruins of Ross, my mind was thrilled to experience another wonder of the islands; the fringing coral reefs of Bay Island.